Update: May 20, 2012. No John Denver Peak in Colorado for now. See news report.
Update: August 16, 2011. All it took me was 10 seconds on Google to find that a peak in the Arctic has already been named John Denver Peak! Of course, news reports and NPR never even mentioned this. Well, nice, some climbers named an unnammed peak after one of their favorite singers. But PLEASE, hands off Mount Sopris! (Oh, and by the way, NPR reported on this in a remarkably biased fashion by giving the advocate of renaming most of the time in their report. Slanted media reporting, hardly ever happens, right?)
Update: August 9, 2011. Aspen Times reports that Board of Geographic Names is reluctant to name or re-name features in Federal Wilderness. That alone could put the snuff on this heinous proposal. Nonetheless, write your protest letters to address below.
Update: August 2011. I got the following email from the Board of Geographic Names (BGN). Today, Aspen Times reports that the people who want to rename the east summit of Mount Sopris are submitting their proposal. So this issue is still alive — more alive than ever. Following is the email reply I got from BGN when I sent my protest email to them. To protest the naming or renaming of anything on Mount Sopris, please please immediately email the BGN. Following is BGN snail mail and email.
U.S. Board on Geographic Names
U.S. Geological Survey
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, MS 523
Reston, Virginia 20192-0523
FAX: (703) 648-4549
You can email them. To prevent your email from getting spam boxed or disregarded, keep it civil with no profanity. Write specifics on the email subject line, and include a couple paragraphs of text in the body. For validity, it’s probably good to include your address and phone number, but apparently not mandatory.
bgnexec at usgs with suffix .gov
Reply Lou received from BGN: Thank you for this recommendation regarding a proposal to change the name Mount Sopris to John Denver Peak or possibly to name one of the mountain’s unnamed peaks. Actually, at this time there is no such proposal either to rename Mount Sopris or to name one of its unnamed peaks. One was submitted in 2009 to change the name of Mount Sopris to John Denver Peak whereupon we asked for clarification and explanation on several matters. No response was ever received, and we have considered the matter closed.
Our information now indicates there is intent to propose that the eastern peak of Mount Sopris be name in honor of John Denver. So, if that proposal is received, the proposal would be to name an unnamed peak on Mount Sopris not to change the name of Mount Sopris. It is possible to name an unnamed peak on a mountain without affecting the name of the mountain in any way; numerous peaks on a mountain of one name can have each peak named with a different name without affecting the official name of the larger mountain. Officially neither the eastern peak nor the western peak are named; the entire feature is Mount Sopris. There is no definitive amount for “saddle drop” nor any required distance apart; only that the feature be discernible to be named.
No name change or name approval will be made under any circumstances or conditions without due process (receipt of another proposal and its approval).
For any proposal (new name for a peak or name change) considered by the Board, local use and acceptance is of primary importance, and so the recommendations of the county, other local jurisdictions, the State Names Authority, historical societies, etc. along with any land management agencies (Federal, State, & local if warranted) are highly considered in the decision-making process as are the opinions of local residents.
Should a proposal be forthcoming, we shall make the Board aware of your recommendation.
Please let us know if you have questions.
Roger L. Payne
For Lou Yost
U.S. Board on Geographic Names
Original blog post below, from July 12, 2011 **************************************************
If someone proposed a different name for the Grand Teton, some of you out there in blogland would probably exercise your constitutional right to buy guns (though in Wyoming, you all are armed to the teeth anyway, right?). Here in Colorado, virtually renaming our signature mountain up above our town of Carbondale, Mount Sopris, could engender similar feelings. Yet amazingly (as in, gad, what is next!?), that exact scenario appears to be happening. Newspaper article.
Mount Sopris has twin summits about a half mile apart, both exactly the same USGS height of 12,953 feet. On large scale maps the mountain is shown as one peak labeled “Mount Sopris.” On the finer grain USGS 7.5 min. quad you finally get enough detail to see the west summit is named with vertical angle benchmark (VABM) label “West Sopris,” while the eastern summit has a labeled VABM “Sopris.” Common terminology is to simply call the twin summits “Mount Sopris” and if necessary differentiate by using the terms “east” and “west.”
Apparently, a John Denver fan or group of fans is trying to name a mountain after the late musician, and to that end they’re attempting to rename the Sopris east summit as “John Denver Peak.”
While I’d actually like to see more Colorado mountains carry names instead of only elevations, Mount Sopris is already named, and both summits are named by their benchmarks and common local terminology. Thus, it is inappropriate to confuse the naming of the peak by renaming the east summit. What is more, the petition to rename the mountain is unclear and appears disingenuous.
The petition states the Sopris east summit elevation as 12,965, a height I can not find on any map nor in the USGS Geographic Names System database (though perhaps this is a recent survey number, and if so, non-issue). More, the petition does not acknowledge that the Sopris east summit is already named and carries a benchmark, and also states that the peak is “near Williams Lake where John composed the Colorado state song Rocky Mountain High.” While the referred Williams lake is in the vicinity of Mount Sopris, the lake is four miles away from Sopris as the crow flies, is several drainages removed, and perhaps most importantly you can not see Mount Sopris from Williams Lake. Also, the official state song of Colorado is “Where the Columbines Grow.” “Rocky Mountain High” was added as a “second state song” in 2007 by a state senate resolution which did _not_ codify the song in the Colorado state statutes (thankfully so, as Denver’s song, while good and no doubt now a classic, is also overtly political in several lyrics, and even dabbles in hypocritical nimbyism when he laments “more people…upon the land” after moving to Colorado himself.)
To outline my reasons for opposing this name change:
1. Mount Sopris is already named after a Colorado pioneer but more importantly by long-term traditional use of its name.
2. The summit proposed for re-naming is one of exact twin Mount Sopris summits only about 1/2 mile apart with an approximately 300 foot saddle drop between the high-points. Such a minimal saddle drop does little to create substantially differentiated summits suitable for separate names. Indeed, a 300 foot drop is usually considered to be the marginal minimum when it comes to having nearby summits carry separate names.
3. Residents of the Mount Sopris area have for years referred to the twin summits as “Mount Sopris,” and when necessary simply clarified with “east summit,” or “west summit.”
4. When people hike Mount Sopris, they have for years commonly gone to the east summit, and have always called that summit “Mount Sopris.” The east summit is the one proposed for renaming.
While I’m not a fan of re-naming the Mount Sopris east summit, I like John Denver and some of his music (you have to admit that however over-the-top, Rocky Mountain High is quite the anthem), so here is another idea. Just above Williams Lake is a beautiful unnamed summit 12,176, which since you can’t see Mount Sopris from Williams Lake is probably what Denver was looking at (along with the Perseid Meteor Shower) when he began the process of writing his famous song. I’d ask the individuals involved in this effort to withdraw their effort to rename the east peak of Mount Sopris, and re-submit their goal as a naming of Point 12,176 above Williams Lake to “John Denver Peak.” That would be nicely appropriate and probably fine with the majority of locals in the area.
(Note: I’m involved in a peak naming effort regarding the Mount Raoul, which is more informal but does involve a summit with a nice defined 400 foot saddle drop and no official or commonly used name.)
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.